House Of God
Metal Blade Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/07/2000
WARNING: I'd like to ask any religious zealots, persons who are easily morally offended or Tipper Gore supporters to forget about today's review. Go check out the updates on Martha Stewart's Web site, and come back tomorrow. We'll still be here.
King Diamond first gained notoriety fronting the demonic metal band Mercyful Fate. With his multi-octave range vocals, his presence was instantly recognizable by anyone who followed the genre.
When Mercyful Fate split up (or, in some people's eyes, took an extended vacation), Diamond formed his own group and began cranking out concept albums that challenged people to examine their own hierarchy of beliefs. And while I'm still very much being schooled in Diamond's music, possibly no album throws down the gauntlet more than his latest disc, House Of God.
Once again pairing up with longtime musical collaborator Andy La Rocque, Diamond and his band have created an album that will offend many people, scare the hell out of many others - and possibly make some people question everything they've ever believed. Diamond makes no bones that this is just a story - he writes in the foreword of the liner notes, "Just keep in mind, that most stories are just that. Something told by someone else, without the facts to prove it."
Diamond may be older than the young man who first burst forth on the scene in the early '80s, but he quickly shows his vocal power has not been diminished, even if he chooses to sing more often in a lower voice. When he lets loose with those trademark banshee wails, you know that Diamond is still vocally at the top of his game.
What also helps things is the excellent production work. On earlier albums of Diamond's (as well as Mercyful Fate's), his vocals tended to be buried under a sonic wall of guitars and drums. Again, I still am plowing through Diamond's backcatalog, so this might be something that has been fixed for a while. But what I hear on House Of God impresses me.
House Of God is the kind of album that you will want to follow along with using the lyrics in the CD booklet. It's a complicated story of a man who accidentally discovers a church which isn't everything it seems to be. The infrastructure of impending doom is laid out on "The Trees Have Eyes," while Diamond uses tracks such as "House Of God" and "Black Devil" to flesh out the story with details.
The true meat of the story begins to show itself on "The Pact," which begins to send our hero into a slippery slope which will lead to great fear, shocking discoveries and - eventually - having to make the choice between following the unknown and terminating his existence.
If we still have any Bible-beaters around who didn't heed my warning to skip today's review, here's where you can't say I didn't warn you. Diamond, once an avowed Satanist, seems to now admit the existence of God, though he doesn't revoke any of his past beliefs. The tracks "Catacomb" - in which our hero discovers the mummified body of Jesus - and "This Place Is Terrible" all suggest that Diamond acknowledges forces beyond what we have been taught to believe in. It's a difficult thing to get through, and Diamond does not demand that anyone follow the views he lays out - he allows everyone to choose their own paths, both in the music and in life. (Note to Diamond: Just for fun, go search out a copy of Robert Ludlum's book The Gemini Contenders, and give that a read. The end of the book might sound a little similar.)
The dual guitar work of La Rocque and Glen Drover are especially noteworthy on House Of God; these two players complement each other well, to the point where La Rocque occasionally seems willing to step to the side and allow Drover to take more of the spotlight.
House Of God is definitely not an album for everyone - to be honest, I would have difficulties letting my daughter, if she were older, listen to it. However, if you're able to keep an open mind about what you're listening to, it turns out to be an excellent concept album and excellent metal album. Fans of Diamond's and of Mercyful Fate should rejoice at this album's release.